Legal Notice Ads Alternative Sought by City
Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars annually in broadsheet advertisements, the city of Chattanooga wanted to advertise its meetings and legal notices on its own website.
Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, said, “It doesn’t make sense why people couldn’t search our own website.”
Local governments are obliged to put legal notices in newspapers of “general circulation,” as mandated by state laws. Under such circumstance, governments cannot use online publications, like their own websites, for instance, as a sole source of information.
As this developed, claims of any savings to taxpayers were disputed by newspaper industry officials. They said such a move may even anger taxpayers because they missed an important city meeting, being unable to look up for the correct schedule in an online publication. Taxpayers may end up filing a lawsuit against the government, which can cost them more than the projected savings.
City Council and committee meetings, bids for work orders, special council meetings, as well as contracts and foreclosures, were regularly advertised in the newspaper by the city of Chattanooga.
Beeland revealed that talks between the city and the Tennessee Municipal League have already been concluded. City representatives will soon meet with local state legislators to discuss the possibility of drafting a new state statute, allowing Chattanooga to advertise on its own website.
For his part, Times Free Press President, Jason Taylor, said, “This would be a terrible disservice to the general public and their right to know.” He further added, “Legals in a published, printed format also serve as a historical reference from the day they print forward and can be validated immediately, without ambiguity, unlike public notices issued electronically, which after the fact can be abrogated or manipulated for the benefit of government versus the people.”